As Alexander West's trial reached the end of its second week, only one new witness was called to the stand Friday. As Matt Hunter reports, West's lawyers are questioning the so-called expert’s credibility.
QUEENSBURY, N.Y. – When she begins calling witnesses to the stand next week, defense attorney Cheryl Coleman says the boating expert she will produce will be far more credible than the one Warren County jurors heard from Friday.
"You're going to hear from an expert, a real expert; a real boating expert, not a fake expert," Coleman said after court recessed Friday afternoon.
Coleman represents Alexander West, the 24-year-old Lake George man who faces 12 counts tied to a Lake George boat crash that claimed the life eight-year-old Charlotte McCue last July. West is accused of fleeing the scene after causing the crash while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Coleman believes the prosecution's witness, 28-year state police veteran Eric Weinreber, lacked the appropriate credentials.
"Being a trooper and testifying as a member of law enforcement is not the same thing as a well-rounded background in all of the areas that are relevant to reconstruction," Coleman said.
Despite Coleman's objections, Weinreber's expert status was accepted by Judge John Hall at the start of his testimony. The retired trooper said he spent 18 years working on boat accident reconstructions, including seven fatalities, before working on the West case.
He testified that West's boat hit the one carrying Charlotte McCue in an "overtaking" situation, which prosecutors believe means the 24-year-old West was responsible.
Defense lawyers insist West had the right of way and that the other driver, Robert Knarr, is at least partly to blame.
"I think you're going to see evidence that a 'crossing' situation may have occurred here," said defense attorney Kathryn Conklin, an associate of Coleman’s.
During her cross examination of Weinreber, Conklin spent a great deal of time questioning Weinreber about his official report containing several errors regarding the boats' measurements.
Weinreber referred to the mistakes as "clerical."
"It doesn't change the physical damage we looked at,” Weinreber testified. “That's what we went off of."
"If you can't even bother to get measurements accurate, what can we rely on about what you're saying?" Conklin said to reporters at the end of the day.
Because West's lawyers did not finish their cross examination of him, Weinreber will be back on the stand Monday morning.
The only other witness to appear before the jury Friday was Warren County Sheriff’s Investigator John Maday, whose testimony began Thursday.
During her cross examination of him, Coleman was critical of the way Maday handled interviews with West and Knarr, the drivers of each boat. Video of his July 26 interrogation of West was shown to jurors on Thursday. Earlier that morning, Maday interacted with Knarr at Glens Falls Hospital, where he initially refused to submit to a blood alcohol pre-screening test. Knarr earlier told authorities he had drank two glasses of wine with dinner and was taking heart medication following a recent surgery.
After West told him he only drank two Coronas all day, Maday is heard in the interrogation video telling West’s he’s going to “follow up” by talking to other people and checking receipts. Coleman questioned Maday about why he made no further inquiries into Knarr’s sobriety after the man made similar claims to officers.
"With Alex, you were immediately suspicious, right?" Coleman asked.
"I did not treat him any different," Maday replied.
On Thursday, Coleman called the sheriff’s office’s investigation “botched” and “biased from the start.”
The trial resumes Monday morning. After Weinreber’s testimony is complete, Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan plans to call Eric McCue to the stand. A passenger on Knarr’s boat and Charlotte’s father, McCue is expected to be prosecutors’ final witness before they rest their case.